How to Decide Which Social Video Platform Is Right for Your Brand

A guide to today's top services and their value to marketers

There's no jackpot waiting for marketers who try to juggle every platform.
Sources: Getty Images, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat

It’s no secret that social video has been on the rise for the past year, as new features like Instagram Stories and Messenger Day join growing tools like Facebook Live and Snapchat Stories. With the social video marketplace becoming more saturated by the minute, it may be time to re-evaluate which platforms make sense for your brand.

John Holdridge

It might be time for a spring cleaning, if you will.

While social video was once about publishing all video content to every platform and every audience, that’s no longer the case. It’s not about volume anymore—it’s about optimization. What platforms serve your target audience? What platforms cater to the type of video content that you produce?

You don’t need to be on every platform to succeed. To be effective and reap the benefits of social, especially during a time when new video products pop up every day, it is important that brands take a second to clean-up their video strategies.

Last year may have been the year of social video, but 2017 is the year of platform-specific social video distribution.

Brands, stop throwing money at the wall and seeing what sticks. Instead, invest in content and platforms that will help you meet your goals.

For some, that means going all in on YouTube, while for others it means betting on Instagram Stories. For all, it is time to understand the tone and cultural nuances of each platform, so branded content can blend seamlessly and organically into news feeds. Let’s walk through the main platforms.

YouTube

Who should prioritize YouTube: Brands that want to gain an in-depth understanding of their audience and build a community around their content. 

Who shouldn’t: Brands that want to be on the cutting edge of behavioral trends. YouTube tends to roll its updates out at a slower pace.

Here’s why: The best way to build a community is to really understand your audience, and YouTube is the reigning the champ of social video data. Through its sophisticated analytics, YouTube is able to facilitate data-driven content and advertising strategies. Why? It did not begin as a strictly social platform with news feeds and trending topics like Facebook or Twitter. Instead, its roots are in a video sharing platform and search engine—with an approach that is video first and video only. Users go there to search and seek content. Creators go there to entertain, build communities, and make money.

What content performs well?
●      Longer-form content (more than 3 minutes) can perform just as well as short
●      Content created specifically with subscriber data in mind
●      Content based on trending/heavily searched topics to attract potential subscribers

Facebook

Who should prioritize Facebook: Brands that want to generate reach by targeting large demographics and using autoplay to their advantage. Additionally, brands that want to experiment with live streaming. The spontaneity and in-the-moment scroll of the feed (not to mention the push notifications) have clearly shown that Facebook has won the live game.

Who shouldn’t: Brands that want to build a community through engaging content. In-stream, autoplayed videos may drive high viewership, but don’t typically warrant active engagement or harness a serious community.

Here’s why: Unlike YouTube, it is difficult to search for video on Facebook. Instead, Facebook utilizes a serve and share approach—the algorithm serves users content it predicts they will enjoy, and relies on those users to share it with their network. The ripple effect of moving from one person’s feed to the next is incredibly powerful, especially coupled with Facebook auto-play, but is not the ideal way to create a community around your content. The algorithm prioritizes live video, driving an increasing amount of views on all live stream content.

What content performs well?
●      Live video
●      Trending big hitters—potentially “viral videos”
●      Content that doesn’t need sound to make sense
●      Shorter content

Instagram

Who should prioritize Instagram: Brands that want their videos to be more likely to appear in their followers’ feeds instead of being frequently downplayed by a restrictive algorithm. Also, brands that want to supplement their static posts with video content. Instagram Stories are also a great option for brands that have an already active and engaged Instagram following.

Who shouldn’t: Brands that want to post longer content or gain deeper insights on their audience.

Here’s why: Video on Instagram is becoming more prominent. A platform rooted in aesthetically pleasing graphics, Instagram now offers content creators several ways to experiment with visual storytelling. And when Facebook increased Instagram’s video time limit to one minute, content creators were able to tell longer, more in-depth stories. Now you can supplement original photography with original videography. When Instagram rolled out Stories, the platform introduced a new aspect to storytelling that is real and in-the-moment  (and another reason for users to spend more time on the platform).

What content performs well?
●      Live video
●      Short content
●      In-the-moment content that tells a story in real time (on Stories)

Snapchat

Who should prioritize Snapchat: Brands that want to target young users or users based on location.

Who shouldn’t: Brands that are big on data and want to know the exact effectiveness of their marketing budget.

Here’s why: While there is a strong audience and robust community on the platform, Snapchat doesn’t offer much in the area of metrics and data. Thus, it makes it harder for brands to know the true effect or ROI of what they invest. Snapchat does, however, give fans a personal, raw look at what happens behind the scenes. The appeal of this mobile-first (and only) app is the closeness with which brands and fans live.

What content performs well?
●      In-the-moment content that tells a story in real time
●      Less produced content
●      Content that skews younger

Brands can no longer create content just to create content—it needs a purpose and an entertainment value. The notion of “if you build it, they will come” just doesn’t exist anymore, at least not in marketing. Consumers have option now, and it’s up to you to figure out which platforms and audiences are relevant to your brand and your content.

Are you ready to start fresh with social video strategy this spring?

John Holdridge is svp of social video strategy at McBeard, a Fullscreen company.